Universities and colleges provide a wealth of resources for meeting groups, from upscale event venues to world-class museums and evening entertainment. Planners can often coordinate a keynote address from one of the faculty or organize an exclusive tour of campus attractions. Moreover, the beautiful setting and academic atmosphere add a fresh energy to the typical meeting agenda.
Before you pick out your next conference destination, consider one of the following college towns.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Nestled on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, the city of Las Cruces is an agriculture-driven community with beautiful Spanish architecture, rich cuisine and numerous museums.
It is also home to New Mexico State University. One of the biggest benefits of hosting a meeting at the university is that the Las Cruces Convention Center sits directly across the street from campus, and the convention center team frequently works with campus personnel to co-host events.
“Working with the university gives planners a whole different set of possibilities than what they’re used to,” said Albert Herrera, convention sales manager at Visit Las Cruces. “It allows them to have so much more freedom and create more of a package experience.”
For example, the city recently hosted a conference that included a large youth component, and planners could arrange adult sessions at the convention center and youth sessions on campus.
“We couldn’t fit all the attendees into the convention center at the time, so we used it as an opportunity to showcase the university,” said Herrera. “Most universities are going to take a look at youth and see it as a recruitment opportunity.”
In May, the city broke ground on a $5 million expansion of the Las Cruces Convention Center, with plans to add 17,000 square feet of meeting space to the existing 30,000 square feet. The project will include building a new 120-room Marriott Courtyard adjacent to the convention center, and both properties are scheduled to complete construction by the end of 2019.
For a spicy sample of local flavor, planners can work with the internationally acclaimed Chile Pepper Institute on campus to schedule an interactive presentation at the event venue. During the program, attendees learn about the different types of chiles grown in the area, as well as the many products they are used in, such as chocolate, cosmetics and ice cream.